On our recent trip to London Zoo, we were all really shocked to see a display in the Aquarium that showed a tank full of plastic bottles. The caption underneath told us that if humans continue creating plastic waste the way that we currently do, that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish!
Perhaps some of you knew that already but for the rest of you I’m sure you’ll find that as shocking as we did. 2050 isn’t very far into the future. And that’s a hell of a disturbing fact about the levels of plastic waste we generate across the World. I was even more surprised to find out just how toxic and dangerous many plastics are, as well as how many can’t be recycled.
We came home from the zoo having made the decision that we wouldn’t use any more plastic. Of course, the reality is that it’s practically impossible to avoid plastic. Much of what we use and come into contact with on a daily basis is made of or using plastic in some shape or form. So what can we do? I put together these simple tips for living with less plastic and generating less waste.
Bring your own bag
This is actually something we’ve already been doing for a while now. I have a couple of canvas shopping bags and am planning to purchase a basket bag too. Most supermarket bags are only used for a few minutes and not recycled thus ending up in landfills. Those kinds of plastics take hundreds of years to break down and pollute the environment whilst doing so. If you drive to and from the supermarket then keep some in your car. Or if like me you don’t drive, keep a fold out one in your handbag. That way you’ll never get caught out and need to purchase a carrier bag.
Carry a reusable water bottle/ stop buying plastic bottles
This one is a biggy – plastic bottles often contain polyethene terephthalate (PET #1) – which contains the toxic metal antimony. These bottles are also intended for single use. This means if they are reused or exposed to heat or cold, they will break down faster and shed more residue.
In most countries, tap water is perfectly safe to drink so get yourself a reusable bottle and use that instead. I recommend a stainless steel or glass one. We keep a pretty glass one in the fridge and refill it straight from the tap. We also have a stainless steel bottle to take out with us on day trips.
Bring your own
I recently got myself and Scott some travel mugs to use for coffee. Every morning my lovely husband wakes me up with a mug of coffee from our cafetiere and there’s always a couple of cups left over.
I simply pour them into our travel mugs and those keep the coffee warm for our commutes to work. You can also use them if you buy coffee out at a cafe – although I’m trying not to do that anymore. I also don’t use disposable cutlery and straws – there’s no need for them. You can get travel cutlery sets or metal sporks for cheap enough on Amazon so you could always keep a set in your bag if you need some.
One thing that I’ve really noticed is that supermarkets use way too much packaging. Things like produce; fruits and vegetables, really don’t need to be plastic wrapped.
Why do supermarkets insist on wrapping individual broccolis? It’s ridiculous. I noticed a massive difference in Sweden where pretty much all of the fresh produce was left open and sold out of refrigerators to keep them fresh.
A good alternative would be to buy produce from a farmer’s market, meat from a butchers etc. However, that isn’t always possible – especially when you live in the city like we do. A simple change for us is to grow our own herbs rather than buying the plastic pouches of them. This saves us money too!
I’m also trying to only choose fruit and vegetables that can be purchased without the wrap. I am planning on writing to our supermarkets to see how we can reduce waste. If enough people do the same we could make a real difference to how the supermarkets package their foods.
Replace with alternatives
Look around your home and see what plastics you use that could be replaced. Do you use plastic Tupperware for leftovers? Store them in glass containers instead. Or make some of these handy bowl covers to cover food.
Are your toothbrushes plastic? When they need replacing choose wooden and natural fibre replacements. Use glass dispensers for shampoo/washing up liquid/ hand soap – you can buy them in bulk which saves on packaging. Next time I replace our dish brushes I will be replacing them with natural fibre and wooden products too.
I’ve even knitted dishcloths and stopped using paper towels and cleaning wipes in the kitchen. Instead, I have stocked up on fabric cloths that can be washed and reused. It’s simple changes like these that will really help.
You could also use shampoo bars, natural deodorants and cleaning products so that you aren’t buying items with unnecessary packaging. There are tonnes of resources for these online.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Like I said it’s practically impossible to not use plastics in some shape or form. It’s also very difficult to live completely waste-free. But you can reduce, reuse and recycle to minimise your waste.
As a family we recycle – it is Lily’s job to sort the recycling out. We dabble in growing our own and also compost our leftovers. We do a lot of crafting using ‘waste’ products and we are reducing our use of plastics. In the grand scheme of things, it might not seem as though these little changes would make a big difference – but every little does help. And wouldn’t you feel better knowing that you are doing your bit? I know I do.
How do you minimise your use of plastic? Let me know of any ideas you have!